disc much ado about nothing

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

disc much adoMuch Ado About Nothing

Leonato’s (Clark Gregg) home is visited by fellow dignitary Don Pedro and his two immediate officers, Benedick (Alexis Desinof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). The latter falls in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero, while the former has a friction-filled and antagonistic past with the man’s niece Beatrice (Amy Acker). It’s not all foreplay and country matters, though, as Don Pedro’s manipulative brother, Don John (Sean Maher), is intent on disrupting political relations by destroying relationships. Let the romantic hijinx begin!

William Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy comes to life yet again, and it’s the best screen incarnation yet. Joss Whedon can be hit or miss at times, but when he’s on the result can be pretty damn incredible. His first foray into the Bard’s realm falls into that category as Whedon retains the original dialogue while adding visual wit of his own. Add to that some perfectly nuanced performances and an attractive score, and you have a film that will leave you smiling for days. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, music video, commentaries]

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disc chucky completeChucky: The Complete Collection

Pitch: “You’ll wish it was only make-believe.” But seriously, it’s only make-believe…

Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) was just your typical serial killer until he’s shot down by the police and forced to transfer his soul into a Good Guy doll before expiring. His only hope is to reverse the spiritual procedure into the body of the little boy who first discovers his secret. His quest will take him through five sequels which shows both real persistence and a sincerely inefficient skill set.

The first Child’s Play film is still good fun, but its two immediate sequels are the epitome of diminishing returns. Things start looking up though with the fourth film, Bride of Chucky, which came seven years after its predecessor. There are a lot of legitimate laughs to be found, and not even a young Katherine Heigl can squash the fun.

Seed of Chucky is less successful. The set also includes the brand new Curse of Chucky which once again breathes new life into the franchise, albeit without reaching the level of Bride. So, a mixed bag overall, but a solid presentation combined with my love of well produced “Complete Collections” makes this one to own for horror fans. [Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes, photo gallery, trailers, deleted scenes]

disc in the fleshIn the Flesh

Pitch: “Life is hard. Death isn’t any easier.” All I’m hearing is whining…

Kieran Walker is coming home after several months of rehabilitation. A very specialized rehabilitation. After killing himself four years ago he rose from the dead along with millions of others and entered into a war with mankind. Now, with the uprising over and the zombie hordes forced into group therapy, the undead are medicated and returned home. So that should go well for all involved.

The UK is no stranger to excellent short-formed series about zombies, and if you haven’t seen Dead Set I highly recommend you change that. And now they’ve done it again with this three episode series that explores zombies in a fresh and wonderfully engaging way.

The zombies are labeled as sufferers of Partial Death Syndrome, and with drugs and therapy they’re able to carry on intelligent discussions and remember their past instead of drooling and wanting to eat every person they come across. The show finds some interesting angles and areas, and instead of simply shooting them in the head, it shows us their heart. [DVD extras: None]

disc mea culpaMea Maxima Culpa: Silence In the House of God

Pitch: God damn it…

Father Lawrence Murphy was a Milwaukee priest who allegedly molested roughly 200 children under his watch at a school for the deaf. The abuse took place over two decades, but the fight to find justice for the victims would take much longer. While this case was one of the earliest, it was far from the only, and this documentary looks at the elephant in the room responsible for making things continually worse.

Director Alex Gibney‘s doc tackles a horrendous topic that we’re all too familiar with these days with a focus on the specific case of Father Murphy’s now-adult victims. Their story is harrowing, rage-inducing, and awe-inspiring, and it’s near guaranteed to make just about anyone question the Catholic Church and its leaders. Some docs focused on bleak issues can overwhelm to the point of becoming simply too much, but Gibney fills his film with energy and purpose making it compulsively watchable. [DVD extras: Deleted scenes]

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disc after earthAfter Earth

Pitch: “Danger is real. Fear is a choice.” This movie is real. Watching it is a choice…

Many years after an alien invasion forced humanity to abandon Earth one of mankind’s greatest warriors is set to retire. Cypher Raige (Will Smith) is a ghost, someone capable of channeling their fear to prevent the fear-smelling aliens from seeing and defeating them in battle, but he faces his greatest challenge on his final mission. He and his son Kitai (Will Smith’s son) crash land on a now toxic Earth, and with Cypher wounded their lives rest in the son’s scared little hands.

For better or worse, this is not M. Night Shyamalan’s worst film. Unfortunately, it’s also not as unintentionally funny as the one that is (The Happening). Instead it’s just incredibly bland. None of the effects astound, the story follows a straight line to exactly where you think it’s going, and the alien world looks just like Northern California. Granted, they’re on Earth, but the very familiar landscape just adds to the generic nature of it all. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, alternate opening]

disc all night horrorAll Night Horror Marathon

Pitch: “4X the scares, 4X the screams!” You’ll come for the math, you’ll stay for the cheesy fun…

In The Godsend, a pregnant stranger enters the Marlowe’s home, gives birth, and leaves sans newborn baby. The Marlowe’s adopt the little girl, and over the next few years they watch in terror as their own children begin dying in mysterious circumstances. In The Outing (aka The Lamp), a malevolent genie is released from captivity in a lamp to wreak havoc on the unlucky. In The Vagrant, an uptight businessman is shaken by the arrival of a stinky homeless man into his neighborhood. Finally, “What’s the Matter With Helen?” sees two older women move to L.A. to start new lives after their sons commit a terrible crime.

Scream Factory’s first DVD-only release collects four old-school horror films on two no-frills discs. The set includes a monster movie, a devil-child flick, and two psychological thrillers of sorts, and viewers are bound to find enjoyment in at least one of them. At under $10 for all four it’s a gamble worth taking for horror fans. [DVD extras: None]

disc europa reportEuropa Report

Pitch: “Fear. Sacrifice. Contact.” It’s no Fear, and it’s definitely no Contact, but yeah, it’s better than Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Sacrifice

The scientific community explodes with joy and curiosity when an unmanned probe reports back that Jupiter’s moon, Europa, features an icy surface that may be hiding primitive life forms. A manned mission is sent to explore further and find the truth, but that truth will come at a heavy price. The story is told using footage recovered from the astronauts and their ship.

So, the elephant in the room? Yes, this is essentially a found footage film, but it’s done as a documentary of sorts interspersed with talking heads discussing the mission. It avoids many of the format’s pitfalls, but the ones that remain haunt the film’s entertainment value. Things move slowly toward an expected conclusion with very few surprises, but a short run time and some recognizable faces (Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu) make it worth a watch. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, photo gallery, trailer]

disc the hangover 3The Hangover Part III

Pitch: “It all ends.” Thankfully…

It’s been two years since the Wolfpack’s misguided and horribly unfunny adventure in Thailand, and the gang is happily enjoying their lives apart. That changes when Alan’s father dies, sending him off his meds and off the deep end. Called back into action his friends head to Las Vegas for one last romp.

Is it a compliment to say this is better than The Hangover Part II? That’s a rhetorical question, but it’s still the best that can be said about the final sequel in this unnecessary trilogy. No one’s heart is in it, and even when the gags and jokes aren’t straight up ripping off the earlier films they lean more towards cruel than funny. And if you’re someone who prefers as little Chow (Ken Jeong) as possible you’re in for a rough ride here. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, extended scenes, outtakes]

disc night train to terrorNight Train to Terror

Pitch: “A rock band gives their final performance on a hell bound trip into the outer reaches of horror!” And yet it’s still less frightening than an Insane Clown Posse concert…

God and the Devil walk into a bar. Then they leave and board a train bound for who the hell knows where, but along the way they debate the merits of mankind through the actions of three people brought to life through three stories. First up is a serial killer whose efforts catch the eye of medical professionals and international body smugglers. Next is the tale of a young couple whose affectations lead to a mysterious group of thrill seekers who constantly challenge death. And finally, a Satanic Nazi continues his reign of terror half a century later.

I spent much of my youth browsing the horror section of video stores for entertainment, and one of the titles that I always hoped to find but that always eluded me was this one. The cover art combined with the anthology format intrigued me, and now years later, Vinegar Syndrome has answered my prayers and remastered it for Blu-ray. Was it worth it? I say yes, but fair warning, you have to have a high tolerance for boobs, blood, claymation, and dance montages in your ’80s horror. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, commentary, bonus feature film Gretta]

disc nothing left to fearNothing Left to Fear

Pitch: “Let us prey.” See what they did there? They ripped off the title of Electric Wizard’s fourth album…

Pastor Dan has been offered a new gig in Stull, Kansas, so along with his wife (Anne Heche) he packs up their three kids and heads out to do the lord’s work. Unfortunately for them their new employer is the lord of darkness! Or something equally evil anyway. Honestly, their first clue should have been the town’s current pastor played by Clancy Brown. Because, Clancy Brown.

Big-haired rocker Slash started a film production company, and this is their first effort. It’s a mostly unoriginal affair with its small town cult and “aren’t rural Christians creepy?” mentality, but it does manage to find the occasional fresh angle on the material. Whether or not that’s enough to warrant a watch will depend on how scary you find black CGI tendrils to be. It does win points for a little something at the 87 minute mark though. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes]

disc on the rivieraOn the Riviera

Pitch: A singing, dancing, joking Danny Kaye? Talk about moving outside of your comfort zone…

Jack Martin (Danny Kaye) is a stage entertainer in post-war Paris whose identical appearance to famed aviator Henri Duran (also Kaye) leads him into a sticky pickle. He’s asked to impersonate the celebrity at a fancy gala, but the evening quickly loses its luster as he’s forced to bounce between two women who each think he’s their man.

I’m of the firm belief that even lesser Danny Kaye is still worth watching because the man was an extraordinary performer and personality. This 1951 musical comedy falls into that lesser category due to humor that falls mostly flat and a story that feels a bit too generic at times, but there’s still some fun to be had between Kaye and Gene Tierney. [Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]

disc the purgeThe Purge

Pitch: “Survive the night.” A fictional portrayal of a government slimdown…

After years of the crime problem in the United States growing out of control a law is passed that legalizes all transgressions one night per year. All crime is legal, from jaywalking to murder, and for those uninterested in partaking the best they can do is hide out in their homes and wait until morning. One family’s decision to invite trouble into their home leads to, well, trouble in their own home.

The premise here is simultaneously ridiculous and nifty, but unfortunately very little of it is explored. Instead, the story devolves fairly quickly into a standard home invasion thriller. There are still some fun moments to be had here including a pretty spectacular brawl in the game room, and Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey are both worth watching, but too much of it plays out with little in the way of smarts or style. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

disc resolutionResolution

Pitch: An intervention worth attending…

Mike (Peter Cilella) leads a normal life in suburbia with a wife and a mortgage, but when he gets an email from his crazy, meth-addicted friend Chris (Vinny Curran), complete with nutty as hell video attachment, he feels compelled to step in and help. He packs for a weekend intervention and heads out to Chris’ cabin in the woods, where he confronts his friend and promptly handcuffs him to a pipe. Along the way, he meets some rough druggie types, a trio of cult-like religious guys, and some very angry Native Americans, and to cap it all off he also discovers an increasingly suspicious series of images. The pictures and eventually video footage tell a story, one that Mike and Chris soon become characters within, and there’s little guarantee of a happy ending.

It won’t leave you floored or mouthing “wow” once the credits roll, but it should leave you impressed with its fresh and interesting take on well-worn ground. The mystery and tension that builds pairs nicely with characters we come to enjoy, and even if the destination underwhelms the journey is still one worth taking. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, videos, trailers, outtakes, intros, commentaries]

disc staticStatic

Pitch: “If you hear them coming, you’re already dead.” Um, TMI…

Novelist Jonathan Dade (Milo Ventimiglia) and his wife Addie (Sarah Shahi) have had a turbulent relationship since the death of their young son, but on a night that should see them celebrating they’re instead visited by a stranger (Sara Paxton). Her arrival sets in motion a night of terror as masked invaders attempt to break in with unknown intentions.

First off, let’s just acknowledge that there is zero reason for this film to be in 3D. One near-POV shot aside there is nothing in this dimly-lit film that would benefit from being seen in 3D. The film itself is a bit of a slow burn at first as it sets the mood, but it picks up once the intruders arrive. There are some interesting elements here, and while the ending uses a well-worn genre trope it manages to be somewhat effective all the same. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, 2D/3D versions]

disc stuck in loveStuck In Love

Pitch: “A story about first loves and second chances” And neat little endings wrapped up with a bow…

William Borgens (Greg Kinnear) found critical success as a writer, but ever since his wife (Jennifer Connelly) left to be with someone else his creative output has slowed to a crawl. His kids, Samantha (Lily Collins) and Rusty (Nat Wolff), are also aspiring authors of varied experience, and just like him they’re going through some turbulent times in their love lives. Can imagination, talent, and family triumph over the real world?

Writer/director Josh Boone makes his feature debut with a sweetly humorous ensemble comedy that manages some heart along the way. Logan Lerman and Kristen Bell provide some solid support, and a cameo of sorts by Stephen King is a highlight, but the script suffers a bit in the third act when the Drama feels compelled to kick into gear. While what precedes it feels genuine the rest is cloyingly artificial. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:

American Horror Story: Asylum
Bones: The Complete Eighth Season
Complicity
Corruption
Drive-In Collection: Lustful Feelings / Virgin and the Lover
Horror Stories
I Married a Witch (Criterion)
Laurence Anyways
The Lifeguard
The Middle: The Complete Third Season
Midnight’s Children
Psych: The Complete Seventh Season
White Collar: The Complete Fourth Season


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